Serving West Michigan Since 1899

John H. Brown

December 16, 1953 - September 1, 2023
Holland, MI


Life Story / Obituary


John Howard Brown, 69, passed peacefully at his summer home in Holland, Michigan on Friday, September 1, 2023.

He was born in 1953 and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan. John graduated from Grand Rapids Union High School in 1972. He went on to graduate from Grand Rapids Community College, A.A., in 1974; Hope College, B.A., Political Science and Economics in 1976; and Juris Doctor degree from the University of Michigan Law School in 1979.

John was proud of his career spanning nearly 38 years in advocacy, government relations and public policy. He was an attorney at Varnum LLP; Director, Worldwide Government Relations, Amway Corporation; President of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce and Vice President, Government Relations at Jackson National Life Insurance in Lansing, Michigan.

John enjoyed telling stories about his time playing quarterback at Union High School and playing baseball at both GRCC and Hope College. He also drew on those experiences to hold forth as he watched his favorite teams, the Detroit Tigers, the Detroit Lions and of course, the University of Michigan Wolverines. He was a longtime Michigan football season ticket holder and loved attending games at the Big House with family and friends. He also took great pride in his family history, including particularly his mother’s Belgian heritage. He and his wife Erin just recently returned from visiting the birthplace of John’s ancestors in Bruges and Ghent, Belgium. He marveled at history and was always looking forward to the next journey, especially if it included family.

In 2006, John married Erin Rowe-Graves. John loved their combined family and was enthusiastic to share with his six grandchildren, ages 8 months to 12 years, all the wisdom and discernment concerning a balanced, well-educated, and Godly life; as well as, details on the upcoming Big Ten football season. In retirement he very much enjoyed time traveling with Erin, playing golf, reading, and being with his children, stepchildren, and their families.

John or “Grandpa Brown” as he is affectionately known, will be missed by so many lives he touched including family, work associates, neighbors and golf buddies in Holland, Michigan, and Heron Glen Golf and Country Club; and Burnt Store Marina Country Club in Punta Gorda, Florida.

He is survived by wife Erin Brown, of Punta Gorda, FL; sister, Barbara Dutkiewicz, of Waupaca, WI; daughter, Maureen (Steve) Bowyer, of Holland, MI; son, Andrew Brown of Holland; daughter, Kathleen (Steve) Gisinger of North Andover, MA; stepdaughter, Emerson (Nate) Graves, of Marquette, MI and stepdaughter, Ellery Graves of Oakland, CA along with six grandchildren. His brother, Steve Brown and his parents, Irene and Richard Brown precede him in death.

There will be open house gathering celebrating John’s life at the Haworth Hotel on the campus Hope College, located at 225 College Avenue in Holland, MI on Sunday, October 1, 2023, from 2:00 pm until 4:00 pm.

In lieu of flowers the family requests donations be made in his memory to either: Hope College, Philanthropy and Engagement, P.O. Box 9000 Holland, Michigan 49422-9000. Please designate donations to the “You Can Move Hope…Forward” Fund in Memory of John H. Brown ’76. or Please designate donations in Memory of John H. Brown at New Life in Christ Church, 507 W. Marion Avenue, Punta Gorda, Florida 33950 or online: